On Tuesday, the farmer-led non-profit group Farm Action submitted an application regarding arguments on the U.S.-Mexico corn dispute, requesting the opportunity to represent the interest of U.S. farmers as the panel evaluates the dispute.
In contrast to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many other stances, Farm Action argues that a diversified market that includes non-GM corn provides a market opportunity for American farmers, and one that they say the government should be supporting farmers in.
The ban, issued by Mexico’s President Andres Manual López Obrador, has begun gradually phasing out GM corn imports. While Mexico argues that genetically modified varieties provide a risk to native corn and the health of Mexico’s people, the U.S. says that the ban violates a trade agreement and threatens to harm U.S. farmers.
In response to the dispute, a panel was established to accept public comments, investigate, and rule on Mexico’s ban.
“U.S. farmers who produce non-GM corn have reported promising financial returns, including higher premiums and improved net profits,” Farm Action’s application says. “If the U.S. shifted 180,000 acres (0.2 percent of its corn acreage) of GM corn to non-GM, it would generate $7.75 million in additional premiums for U.S. farmers and successfully meet Mexico’s shifting needs.”
Farm Action argues that the U.S. government’s opposition to the ban would be better focused on defending corn growers rather than “seed and agrochemical corporations” that they say a shift to non-GM production would impact. Farm Action claims that its mission is toward a fair and just food system, though it has a shaky record of allying itself with politicians such as Cory Booker, who are frequently critical of American farmers.
“The group of corporations controlling the GM corn, glyphosate, and agrochemical markets is small but powerful: Four corporations control 65 percent of agrochemicals, and just two control 70 percent of all GM corn seed in the United States,” writes Farm Action. “Internal government documents demonstrate that seed and agrochemical giant Bayer (which owns Monsanto) pressured Mexico into dropping its glyphosate ban.”
In contrast, earlier this year a coalition of food and agricultural industry stakeholders in both countries released a study about the impacts the ban would have on both countries. The decree comes with concern for the food security and economic vitality of the country that imports 17 million tonnes of corn annually. Currently, biotech corn makes up over 90 percent of U.S. corn crops.
»Related: Viewpoint: Mexico’s GMO antics can undermine U.S. trade globally